George Will Calls Out Washington Post Fact-Checker
Since Wednesday, the Obama-loving media have been working overtime trying to disprove a number of statements made by Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan during their respective speeches at the Republican National Convention in Tampa.
On ABC's This Week Sunday, George Will called out Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler for claiming Ryan had mislead Americans about a GM plant closing in Janesville, Wisconsin (video follows with transcript and commentary):
MATTHEW DOWD, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: From my perspective, what happened at this convention is that nobody is calling on it, or maybe a few people are calling on it. Paul Ryan, what he did in his speech, I think, so stretched the truth, and I like Paul Ryan, I have a lot of great respect for Paul Ryan, but the (INAUDIBLE) that he said about closing the GM plant, which closed before Barack Obama took president, about the Simpson-Bowles bill which -- Simpson-Bowles, which he opposed, and then all of a sudden you see faults Barack Obama for, at some point the truth should matter.
GEORGE WILL: At every particular and what he said about the GM plant was right. He did not say it closed before Obama became president. The one who said that was the so-called fact checker at The Washington Post who got it wrong. He said it was closed in December 2008. In fact it was making trucks in April 2009.
DOWD: George, the way he -- when anybody that is watching that that didn't know the facts of it, anybody watching that speech, whether they -- as I say, just like the welfare thing, anybody coming away from that believes one thing.
And you're saying the fact may be right, he was trying to convey that Barack Obama was responsible for the closing of the GM plant, and that isn't true.
WILL: He said, "especially in Janesville, where we were about to lose a major factory" - entirely true.
Indeed. Here's the relevant portion of Ryan's speech:
President Barack Obama came to office during an economic crisis, as he has reminded us a time or two. Those were very tough days, and any fair measure of his record has to take that into account. My home state voted for President Obama. When he talked about change, many people liked the sound of it, especially in Janesville, where we were about to lose a major factory.
A lot of guys I went to high school with worked at that GM plant. Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said: “I believe that if our government is there to support you … this plant will be here for another hundred years.” That’s what he said in 2008.
Well, as it turned out, that plant didn’t last another year. It is locked up and empty to this day. And that’s how it is in so many towns today, where the recovery that was promised is nowhere in sight.
Any of that not true? The Indianapolis Star observed Friday:
Ryan insinuated that Obama can be blamed for the plant's demise. Critics pointed out that GM produced its final Chevrolet vehicles at the plant on Dec. 23, 2008, when George W. Bush was still president.
GM actually manufactured other products at the plant for the first few months of Obama's administration in 2009 as part of a longstanding contract with Japanese automaker Isuzu to jointly produce heavy trucks there. A few dozen GM workers stuck around through late spring 2009 to produce the final Isuzu vehicles.
"A few dozen GM workers stuck around through late spring 2009 to produce the final Isuzu vehicles."
Yet here's what Kessler wrote Wednesday evening in a hastily prepared piece titled "Ryan Misleads on GM Plant Closing in Hometown":
In his acceptance speech, GOP Vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan appeared to suggest that President Obama was responsible for the closing of a GM plant in Ryan’s hometown of Janesville, Wisc.
That’s not true. The plant was closed in December, 2008, before Obama was sworn in. [...]
Obama gave his speech in February, 2008, and he did say those words. But Ryan’s phrasing, referring to the fact the plant did not last another year, certainly suggests it closed in 2009, when Obama was president.
Well, if the plant remained open "through late spring 2009," Ryan's right.
But that didn't end the debate Sunday:
KERRY HEALEY, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN ADVISER: And the point is that Barack Obama had said specifically about that factory that, you know, this kind of factory, you know, with government intervention should be able to be open for another 100 years and then it was announced that it would eventually close, and it did close after Obama was in office, not before, no intervention occurred.
HEALEY: The whole idea is that this is precisely the type of thing that Obama said that he was going to be able to accomplish and he has not.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, HOST: But Paul Ryan supported the auto bailout.
HEALEY: The point is, we're talking about fact-checking here though at the moment. I mean, this is one of those cases where the fact-checkers just had it wrong.
BRAZILE: I disagree. You know, now the fact-checkers are liars too. I mean, at some point...
WILL: Not liars, just don't have their facts right.
BRAZILE: George, you know, I mean, I can get into the weeds of all of that. And I have my paper, too. No, no, please don't give me any more paper, my handbag is full.
The point is, is that, Paul Ryan, a rising star in the Republican Party, clearly he exaggerated a lot of points. And we spent the next day trying to clear up all of the exaggerations.
There's a larger issue here, George, and that is the American people are sick and tired of politics. They're sick and tired of the back and forth, the acrimony, which is one of the reasons why I think President Obama, Vice President Biden, and Bill Clinton, who I believe is a key leader next week for us, they need to make sure they talk directly to the American people, encourage them to be partners in what we need to do together as a country, and not get into trying to refute all of the Republican arguments.
WILL: This isn't the weeds, this is, again, Mr. Kessler of The Washington Post, "The plant was closed in December 2008, before Obama was sworn in." False.